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The War Comes to an End Over the Pronunciation of ‘GIF’

Speaking of language, as we were a couple of posts back, currently making the rounds all over the design-y portions of the internet is this piece for the Atlantic by Rebecca Greenfield, “Tech Etymology: Animated GIF.” It arrives at a conclusion surrounding a very serious and contentious debate: how to pronounce “GIF,” the image file format that, anymore, seems largely in use only in animated form on online forums about celebrities, cats, or cat celebrities (and probably elsewhere too, but those are the only sorts of sites we look at on a daily basis). This debate has raged at this writer’s own home for several years now, with his wife using the hard G and he using a softer J-like sound, as in “gin.” Turns out, he wins. Unfortunately, Greenfield gives his wife an out by saying none of it really matters in the end:

All of this to say that those of you who pronounce GIF with a hard-g shouldn’t be embarrassed. Not only does the Oxford English Dictionary declare both pronunciations — /gɪf/ (hard g) , /dʒɪf/ (soft g) — correct, but as Dr. Labov’s colleague, phonology expert Dr. Rolf Noyer, explained, “pronunciation is a matter of agreement between people.” Language is constantly changing: If an overwhelming amount of people want to say GIF like gift, and an overwhelming amount of people accept and understand that pronunciation, the creators’ intentions don’t really matter.


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Witold Rybczynski Attempts to Decipher Architect-Speak

We’re still recovering a bit from the record-setting blizzard we got here over the last couple of days, which certainly didn’t help us get over this flu going around, so this writer is going to start gently this morning. Slate‘s resident architecture critic, Witold Rybczynski, has decided to weigh in on the way architects speak to one another, using lots of highfalutin, five dollar words, in an essay he’s entitled, “A Discourse on Emerging Tectonic Visualization and the Effects of Materiality on Praxis” or as the subheading says, “…an essay on the ridiculous way architects talk.” It’s a fun piece, quickly running through the history of American architecture speak, ranging from the days when “fenestration” meant “window,” to the modernist period when less-was-more, to our current state, which Rybczynski believes is just as jargon-heavy as ever, thanks to universities teaching architecture “as a theoretical discipline.” He provides a very funny, short translation guide for the words currently in large circulation, which should come in handy the next time you run into somewhere wearing a black turtle neck and eyeglasses that are much cooler than yours.

Verb Police: To Architect or Not to Architect?

samuel johnson looks it up.bmpYesterday we were intrigued and slightly befuddled to read on our sister blog FishbowlNY of Backpacker magazine editor-in-chief Jonathan Dorn‘s description of recent work on the magazine’s website: “Since last September, we have been architecting what our readers said they wanted: more multimedia content, GPS-enabled hikes, current gear reviews, and loads of interactive trip tools.” While “GPS-enabled hikes” sound like something we’d like to try, we had trouble getting past Dorn’s use of the verb “to architect” when describing web design. To get a better handle on the verb, we looked to that dictionary of dictionaries, that settler of many a lexical cage match, the Oxford English Dictionary. Here’s what it had to say under architect, v.

To design (a building). Also transf. and fig. Hence architected ppl. a., designed by an architect; architecting vbl. n. and ppl. a.

The references listed, beginning with an 1818 usage by Keats, all refer to buildings in some way, with the exception of a 1913 description of a man who had “come out of the prison-house of theological system, nobly and grimly architected.” Our Verb Police verdict? Save “architecting” for the architects and try “creating,” “building,” or our personal favorite, the wonderfully elastic “designing.”

THAT’S What JPEG Stands For???


We had a lot of trouble in architecture “school.” A real lack of consistent–not to mention clear–linguistic sensibility. Half the professors kept on using phrases like post-matricial deconstruction of the pre-planar strata while the other half discussed body, mesh, and the body mesh. If only we’d had the recently launched Graphic Design Glossary to help us out, we might have had a bit more luck when we were asked to choke the raster on the 300dpi keyline and save to jpg. To think, if we’d only had the glossary, we could be junior assistant assistant architecting. For shame.

Hip Design Jargon

Thwart Design has come up with a list of Hip Design Jargon and filed it, appropriately, under pet peeves. Highlights include: synergy (an old favorite of mine from Disney days), modular, sustainable, and organic.

The Secret Language of Signs

birthcolor.gifHere is a bit of signage related arcana I stumbled across while looking for an online justification for my preferred use of the word snipes to describe posters wheat-pasted up around town. I use it for both advertisements and posters of the street art variety. It was a term I learned years ago, when I was invited out for a night of sniping with the art-scene feminists, The Guerilla Girls. It seemed at the time (and still) the perfect word to describe these posters that appear so surreptitiously.

My search included strings like “+snipes +advertising” (which got me a lot of links to advertising for movies starring Wesley Snipes) and +snipes +”guerilla marketing” led me to dead ends. Finally the query “+snipes +advertising +poster” led me to this Glossary entitled Lexicon of Terms Commonly Used in Outdoor Advertising brought to us by the fine people at…The Outdoor Advertising Association of the Philippines, naturally. I just love the internet.

Now that I’ve had my verbiage validated by someone in the Philippines, I’ll get back to work on my upcoming post about a curious series of snipes I’ve been seeing on the streets of NYC lately. Stay tuned.

To view a full size image of the Guerilla Girls snipe pictured at left, click here.